Keller Foundation hits $40M giving mark with grant

Written by Ariel Cheung, Post-Crescent Media
April 14, 2014

APPLETON — When it’s decision-making time, the Keller family asks itself one simple question: Is this what Jack and Ethel would want?

“They really see it as carrying on Jack and Ethel’s legacy,” said Mary Harp-Jirschele, executive director of the J. J. Keller Foundation. “They think of them often, and they keep their spirit alive through their philanthropic work.”

Jack Keller formed the foundation in 1990 as a birthday present to his wife Ethel, and in the 23 years since, the J. J. Keller Foundation — now led by the Kellers’ sons and grandchildren — has created a legacy of giving to organizations and programs that benefit the community and address societal problems like poverty and mental illness.

This morning, that legacy reached a new milestone, as the J. J. Keller Foundation’s $3,500 grant to Feeding America pushed the family’s total giving to more than $40 million. The check was used to distribute 30,000 pounds of food today to about 500 people in need during a Hands Against Hunger event at the Valley View Cinema.

To celebrate the foundation’s landmark, Bob Keller, president of the J. J. Keller Foundation Board, presented an additional $40,000 grant to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin during the event — nearly doubling its annual $50,000 gift to the organization.

“The J. J. Keller Foundation is such a gift to our community,” said Patti Habeck, northeast Wisconsin regional manager of Feeding America. “Not only do they provide consistent financial support to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin’s collaborative efforts in the community, but they are also willing to roll up their sleeves and volunteer.

“Feeding America is deeply grateful to the Keller family for their constant commitment to make our community a better place to live.”

Last year, Feeding America distributed 20 million pounds of food to 1,000 food pantries, meal programs and emergency shelters — more than 60 of which were in the Fox Valley.

Since the foundation’s start in 1990, the Keller family has grown its annual giving from an average of $50,000 to $3.5 million each year.

In the Fox Valley, more than $22.4 million has been granted since 1991, with an additional $18.6 million distributed through the John J. and Ethel D. Keller Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

The Kellers also have donated more than $729,000 to the Oshkosh and Green Bay communities through donor-advised funds since 2007.

Locally, the Kellers joined forces with Affinity Health System, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, ThedaCare and Dave Vander Zanden to establish Catalpa Health, which opened in November 2012.

The foundation also has partnered with the Schmidt family and its U.S. Venture Open as a lead partner and donor to the Basic Needs Giving Partnership, committing more than $7.6 million over a 10-year period.

— Ariel Cheung: 920-993-1000, ext. 430, or; on Twitter @arielfab

Fox Cities domestic abuse agencies mark milestone in aiding victims

Written by Andy Thompson, Post-Crescent Media
April 7, 2014

In the not-too-distant past, domestic abuse wasn’t widely thought to be a major problem in the Fox Cities, and agencies that aided battered women were largely hidden from public view.

Those days are long gone.

“Now, we’re visible and vocal and we’ve raised the awareness of the general community,” said Beth Schnorr, executive director of Appleton-based Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs, which serves Outagamie and Calumet counties. “Most people know us as an agency now.”

Julie Fevola, executive director of Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services, which provides assistance to victims in Winnebago and Green Lake counties, shares that view.

“It really has changed,” she said. “People are much more accepting that (domestic abuse) is happening in our community, and they want to help us do something about it.”

Schnorr and Fevola say the agencies — and the communities they serve — have made considerable strides in the battle against domestic abuse as they mark their 30-year anniversaries in 2014.

To recognize the agencies for their far-reaching work on behalf of domestic abuse victims over the past three decades, a “Pearl Fund” has been established, and the J. J. Keller Foundation has offered to match donations to the fund up to a total of $60,000.

“It’s a great way to recognize the wonderful work of two top-notch local nonprofits that are critical to the continuum of care in the Fox Valley,” Mary Harp-Jirschele, executive director at the foundation, said in making the announcement last month.

Schnorr said that kind of community support is vitally important for Harbor House, which not only operates a 55-bed shelter for abuse victims but offers a wide range of services and programs designed to end the cycle of violence within families.

Focus on prevention
Both Harbor House and Christine Ann have been focusing intently on prevention programs. That includes educating children about the importance of treating people with respect and addressing the root causes of violence in the home.

“We’re much more into those efforts than we were a year ago,” said Schnorr, who has been the executive director of Harbor House since 1990. “We hope that children of families we’re serving will not come back as adults.”

Schnorr and Fevola praised Fox Valley Voices of Men, a group whose mission is to end sexual and domestic violence against women and girls through education. Members of the organization urge boys and men — through role-modeling and mentoring — to reject domestic violence and respect women.

“We are very hopeful about Voices of Men,” Schnorr said. “An attitude of privilege and sexist views create an environment where abusive men can get away with it. Good guys hadn’t been involved in teaching boys respect. That message is so powerful.”

Fevola said Voices of Men is a great example of community collaborations that are paying dividends for Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services.

Educational programs are also important in getting the anti-violence message across to young people, she said. One such program involves reaching out to seventh- and eighth-graders.

“Our focus is working on the root causes (of domestic abuse),” Fevola said. “We’re working with youth about healthy relationships. Some kids have good role models; some have not-so-good role models.

“We focus on where domestic abuse has been occurring. (Young people) need healthy relationships and ways to settle conflict.”

Schnorr said Harbor House officials also go into schools and talk to students about dating violence and the implications about being bullied.

“Many times, (domestic abuse) perpetrators were bullies (in school),” she said.